Tipping and ex post facto restitution
April 30, 2006 9:40 AM   Subscribe

I didn't think that I had to tip; now I think I should have. Any way to make this right?

Here's the sitch, as the kids say nowadays: it was a gorgeous Sunday morning and I went down to a very, very small cafe in my neighborhood. There were no seats available, so I sat down on a bench nearby--not seating for the cafe, just street furniture. I sat for a few minutes reading my paper, then went inside to order. My food was brought out. After eating I brought my dish inside on my own, then paid at the counter. I didn't tip a dime.

I suppose I thought that since it felt like I was in some sort of take-out situation (and since the guy who I paid was the owner), I didn't have to tip. Thirty seconds after leaving I realized that I probably ought to have. Did I screw up, and if so, is there any way to put things in order?

And by the way, this is a matter of a few dollars: I paid thirteen and think now that I should have paid fifteen or sixteen. It's more an etiquette question than a concern for cheating someone out of his pay.
posted by j.s.f. to Food & Drink (12 answers total)
Eat there again and tip exorbitantly, 40-50 percent.
posted by boo_radley at 9:43 AM on April 30, 2006

Tip an extra 5% every time you eat there till you've made up for it. That way, no single server gets the whole tip and, if they share tips, you're spreading it out over the entire pool of possible workers from that day.
posted by acoutu at 10:01 AM on April 30, 2006

Wait - it was self-order (you went inside), and due to the lack of seating, the food was delivered outside. You then bussed your own table. I don't think you need to tip at all - the only service provided was the delivery of the food outside, which was only necessitated by the fact that the seats inside were filled.

I'd say don't worry about it - maybe give a little more the next time if it makes you feel better, but I don't think a tip is warranted in this case.
posted by aberrant at 10:05 AM on April 30, 2006

What aberrant said.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:14 AM on April 30, 2006

In terms of thinking of it as a take-out situation, in many restaurants, take-out servers get tips as well. They are still paid less-than-minimum wage under the expectation that they receive tips, they box up and check the food and bring it to you, and either that is all they do for a living, or they're taking time away from their table customers, sometimes a lot of time for some special orders (where I work, the cooks cook the food, but the take-out girls do a lot of the prep-work in terms of getting the food ready for a customer).

That said, in the situation you were in, namely self-service at the counter then not having a table, I don't think you failed at some obligation to tip. Someone just bringing you your food is not the same as table (or good take-out) service. I've worked that sort of foodservice, too, and a dollar in the tip jar if there was one--there not being one would imply that tips were not expected in your situation--would suffice.

I've had them bring me my order at fast-food places, too. At Sonic, where the service is part of the experience, I tip them. At McD's (OK, I know, but I have a five-year-old, and it's by no means even a weekly thing even so), if circumstances have made it necessary that they bring me the food when I would have gotten it myself from the counter otherwise, no.

(And I'm generally a 25% tipper for decent service)
posted by Cricket at 10:51 AM on April 30, 2006

Yep - what aberrant said.
posted by scarabic at 11:34 AM on April 30, 2006

When I worked at a takeout counter, i got paid over minimum wage. When I was a server, I didn't. You could always discretely ask, like, "say, what do most people tip?" as you're putting money in the jar.
posted by salvia at 12:03 PM on April 30, 2006

Oh, but if you knew you stiffed one server out of a tip, they totally noticed at the time, and their faith in humanity would be renewed if you either went back and tipped them today, or left a tip with the manager with their name on it, or actually said something next time you saw them at the place. But if it's a tip pool, then either the extra-big tip or the spread-the-wealth method will be fine. For me, it was always the sense of insult or injustice more than the lost $2.50 that bothered me.

But the guy you paid was the owner? And no one brought you a bill or, say, refilled your coffee? I think you're fine.
posted by salvia at 12:08 PM on April 30, 2006

No tip.
posted by NortonDC at 1:30 PM on April 30, 2006

If the server was the owner, I think he's probably paying himself more than what the other workers are making, so don't sweat it.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:38 PM on April 30, 2006

Owners aren't tipped. You're fine.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:05 PM on April 30, 2006

Who brought you your food? The owner, or an employee? If the owner, no need to tip. If another employee, wait till they bring you food again, then tip an extra buck or two.
posted by desuetude at 9:13 AM on May 1, 2006

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